The Best Things I’ve Ever Eaten

Food is one of my favorite things.  Turns out, I can’t live without it.  But as much as I love food, there will always be some foods that stand out as some of the best things I’ve ever had to eat. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of my favorites:

Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Orlando

Pears on Pecan Crisps – My mouth waters when I think about eating this. 

My favorite part of Cafe Tu Tu Tango is that it’s a funky tapas style restaurant, where you order a bunch of stuff and everyone shares.  My least favorite part of Cafe Tu Tu Tango is that my family expects me to share this dish.

Imagine oven roasted pears, done to a juicy perfection, just long enough to bring out the incredible sweetness.  Place the pears on top of a crisp, wafer thin type of cracker made from pecans, add a fresh arugula and bleu cheese salad, then drizzle the whole thing with a balsamic glaze.  I know – you’re drooling now too, right? 

There are so many flavors in the dish, that you wonder how it’s all going to come together, but the harmony of sweet, tangy, crispy and creamy is music in your mouth. 

Elements Cafe, Haddon Heights, NJ

Cinnamon Ice Cream – You know that phrase “To Die For”?  It was invented after tasting this ice cream!

Chef Fred at Elements Cafe is a tapas genius.  We’ve eaten at Elements five or six times, and every meal is more memorable than the last.  The fact that this is another tapas style restaurant would have you believe that with the appetizer sized portions that I’m sharing with my family, there would be plenty of room for dessert, but there almost never is.  But whatever else you eat, leave room for the cinnamon ice cream.

The ice cream conjures up memories of fall, and family, and home.  Sweet, with the spice of the cinnamon, cold and creamy – it’s like a grown up version of your favorite treat from childhood.  The ice cream is usually paired with some other spectacular dessert, but this stands alone.  I wish I had some right now.

Bruno’s Restaurant and Pizza, Haddonfield, NJ

Roasted Red Pepper Gnocchi with Seafood

There should be a picture of this dish here, but every time we’ve gotten it, it’s been gone before I remember that I don’t have a picture of this work of art!

Bruno’s was our favorite local pizza shop for years before we ventured in to sit down for dinner.  We’ve always listened intently to the list of specials, and each time we’ve gone, we order from the specials list.

That’s where we first met roasted red pepper gnocchi.  I have to tell you, Jim has never been a fan of gnocchi, and now we know why.  What we were used to were heavy, gummy, and flavorless lumps of pasta.  What you’ll find at Bruno’s are flavorful, delicious, and topped with the freshest shrimp and the meatiest pieces of crabmeat.  I could never eat the entire dinner by myself, but even with Jim and I sharing, we always have some left over for lunch the next day – how could this not be a favorite? 

Adding to the whole experience, you’ll often see the man himself, shaking hands as patrons walk into his restaurant, and the waitstaff are friendly and fun, and they make you feel like you’re part of the family.  What could be better than having one of your favorite meals in one of your favorite family restaurants?

Let me know what some of your food favorites are.  I have a whole list – and I’m sure I’ll be sharing again soon!

Wedding Bliss – Keeping the Planning Stress Free

The boyfriend has popped the question, and you’ve have said yes.  But a few weeks in, you’re wondering if you said yes to a lifetime with the man of your dreams or a lifetime of stomach ulcers, headaches, and wedding nightmares.

My sister is currently planning her wedding, which is just under a year away; my friends Amy and Anthony are planning a multi-part wedding; and my friend Sandi got engaged this past week, and has decided to get married in two months!!  But it doesn’t matter how much time you have or how many places you need to be – there’s always so little time and so much to do!  So let’s make this easier….

1 – Ask, and ye shall receive.

Everyone loves planning weddings!  Learn to delegate some responsibility to other people.  You don’t have to be in charge of everything.  So what if your Mother-in-Law makes a typo in your wedding program, and instead of spelling your name correctly, she accidentally spells it using all the same letters of your husband-to-be’s ex-girlfriend?  You’ll laugh about it later!  Let your grandmother assemble the gift bags for the out of towners – they might all end up with a hand crocheted tea-cozy!  But honestly, the more you can give to other people to do, the fewer headaches you’ll have.

2 – Tackle one task at a time.

Caterers, Flowers, and Limos – OH MY!  I like to cross one thing off the list at a time.  Catering – check.  Photography – check.  Flowers – check.  Try to cram in too many appointments for too many different things, and you may end up telling the caterer you’re allergic to “Flower” instead of peanuts, and you’ll tell the photographer you need pictures taken at Sunset Valley Catering Hall instead of Valley Sunset Catering Hall.  Make a list, try to keep appointments for the same type of vendor on the same day, and bring your cell phone!  Most phones allow you to make notes so you remember what you like or don’t like about each vendor, and you can snap pictures to help jog your memory later!

3 – Date night?  What’s a date night?

Remember him?  He’s the guy in the car next to you on the way to all those appointments.  He’s the one sitting quietly while you complain about the dress shop fittings, petit four frosting, dyeable shoes, and a particular shade of pink that doesn’t quite match the flowers you’ve chosen.  He hasn’t once moaned about his favorite ball player being traded, the price increase in his favorite beer, or the lack of sex he’s had since you’ve been in wedding planning mode.  Do the dude that you love a solid – take him out on a date.  It’s so hard to be romantic with all this love and marriage stuff swirling around – seriously, it is.  You’re stressed, he’s silent, and neither of you are doing the stuff that got you here in the first place.  Stop the wedding stuff for an evening, enjoy a nice dinner out, catch a movie, and just snuggle!  You might remember why you’re marrying him in the first place!

4 – Respect My Authori-tay!

You’re not on this earth alone – although planning a wedding can cause some brides to retreat into a bubble clouded with tulle and rose petals.  You probably have a boss to answer to, a priest or minister demanding time and attention, and possibly children or parents who want a piece of you, too.  The LAST thing you need on top of the stress of a wedding is stress from the other people you have to answer to.  Don’t let your boss catch you writing invitations while you’re on the clock, and if your minister says you need to come in for pre-marital counseling, don’t blow him off until the week before the wedding and find out he cancelled your whole day because you didn’t call him back.  Make time for the other things that are just as important as the wedding planning to avoid a whole other set of headaches you don’t need.

5 – Bridal Bath Time

Never underestimate the healing powers of a long, hot bath.  Fill the tub with some scented bubble bath, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, pull your hair up, and relax.  Get that hubby in practice and ask him if he’ll come rub lotion on your feet when you’re done, and turn in early.  Brides can be prone to getting sick, because you’re running around like a mad woman!  Hot bath, Sleep Time tea, and an early bedtime now and again will keep you healthy and feeling well.

You’ll get through this – we all do!  Know that your day will be happy because you’re marrying the guy of your dreams, not because you’ve chosen the perfect centerpieces for the tables.  Enjoy the moment, because it goes by so quickly – unless, of course, your wedding ends up on Funniest Home Videos – and even that’s not such a bad thing!